Why Is Everyone Afraid Of Snakes?

Even though many snakes are harmless to humans, our fear of them remains strong. Why are we all so afraid of snakes?

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Ophidiophobia, the fear of snakes, and herpetophobia, the more general fear of reptiles and amphibians are the most common phobias that people have. It's hard to deny that snakes are creepy, and many are poisonous, but there's a lot of other things out there that are, too. So why are people so freaked out by snakes in particular? Psychologists have been studying this rampant fear of snakes and have found that both adults and children can easily pick out images of snakes from a collection of other nature images showing things like frogs and flowers, which suggests the recognition is rooted in a survival instinct, suggesting that our fear of snakes might be hard-wired.

A 2014 study concurred: 24 Norwegian women between 18 to 31 years old were shown various photos while an EEG machine measured their brain's response. Images of snakes and spiders caused them to have significantly stronger response in the visual processing region of their brains. Research published in the journal Biological Psychology suggests that our fear of spiders is learned rather than innate since spiders aren't nearly as historically threatening to our safety as snakes are. All the more reason why Trace is such a rockstar for handling this 100 lb. python with such aplomb!

Are you terrified of snakes, or do spiders freak you out more? Tell us about your phobias in the comments section below!

Learn More:

Evolutions Most Effective Killer: Snake Venom (Popular Science)
"As predators, snakes are missing a few key attributes. They have no legs to chase down their prey, no paws to knock down quarry, and no claws to hold their victims. But none of these deficiencies matters much, because evolution has handed snakes the ultimate weapon: venom."

Why We Are Afraid Of Snakes (The Wall Street Journal)
"The human brain is wired to react fearfully to snakes, including in people without a conscious fear of snakes, says a study in this month's issue of Biological Psychology."